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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2270

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(8.55) —First of all I must point out that when I, as a Minister, get up in this place and answer questions about costs and amounts of money expended, I have to produce exact figures. If I cannot, I have to ask for the question to be put on notice and go back to get those exact figures. Senator Rae, of course, is in the beautiful position of saying 'I am informed' but not having to tell us by whom or by what authority such and such cost $500,000 or $350,000. I am not arguing about that. I have been in the same position on the Opposition benches and have done the same thing myself, but it is very easy to do that.

It is my understanding that an efficiency audit was going on from as far back as 1980 or even 1979 and, as Auditor-General's efficiency audits are often supposed to do, it was not only to check the efficiency of the department or statutory authority at which it was looking, but it was also to assist it to change or mend its ways. My information is that what happened in this case-and it is not the first time that I, as an ex-member of the Public Accounts Committee, have known this to happen-was that both Australia Post and eventually, rather reluctantly, the Auditor-General discovered that they were not being necessarily helpful. The Auditor-General found that he was frequently paralleling things that were being done by Australia Post and in the end everyone threw up their arms and gave up. I am not saying that that is satisfactory, but it is a situation that occurs and it occurs not only in the Public Service but in private industry as well. I will have to get more careful and exact details for Senator Rae-as much as I possibly can. Unless Senator Rae is willing to tell me the source of his figures-of $500,000 and $340,000-I am afraid I cannot check them, but he is a good politician and like a good journalist I do not expect him to divulge his sources.